Adam's story. Working full time and still homeless.
“I was working as a chef in Swansea last year, but I got offered a better job in Devon through an agency. It was full-time, and salary based, which is not normal these days, so I went down for a three-day trial that went really well. It was a lovely place and they also had accommodation for the staff, so when the agency rang me up to say they wanted to offer me the position I said yes. I was living in shared private accommodation at the time, so I left my room and moved down there.
I worked for two months, but after Christmas they turned around and said they only needed me for seasonal work from then on. I’d signed a full-time contract, but they said that only applied if there was enough work. They did say I could come back when it picked up again, but I knew I’d just be in the same position when that ended. I was angry at the time, but it was just a lack of communication at the end of the day. I had to leave the staff accommodation, so that’s when I decided to come back to Swansea in January. I didn’t have enough money for a deposit on my own place, and I had no one to ask for help, but I managed to get my old job back, and I thought if I worked full-time for long enough I could save it myself.
I don’t have any family anymore. My dad left when I was four and my mum died of cancer when I was seventeen. I have one brother, but we don’t get along, and I don’t speak with him. The year after my mum died, my nan passed away as well, so then it’s just been me. After mum died I was taken into care until I was eighteen, and then I went to catering college for two years. I’ve been working as a chef and living in shared houses ever since.
I stayed on a friend’s sofa at first, but you quickly end up feeling like a burden to people. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, and I still had that bit of pride that I could do things on my own, so I moved into a B&B, just so I had a roof over my head. The B&B was ok, but I was soon working fifty or sixty hours a week just to pay for the room, and for basics like travel and food. However hard I tried it was completely impossible to save enough money. I started to worry I’d be stuck in that B&B forever, so I went to the housing officer and told them my situation, but they just said that because I was in full-time work they couldn’t help me. I explained that I just needed help with the deposit, but they said there was nothing they could do for someone in my situation, even if I had to sleep on the streets to save the money myself, so that’s what I had to do.
First of all, I went to a hostel for single young people, but you have to present yourself there at 2pm every day, which was really difficult if you’re also working, and they only have two emergency beds anyway. I managed to stay there a few times, but if five or six other people turn up at the same time they have to assess who needs it the most, which usually wasn’t me. There was also a night shelter over the winter, but it was so rough I felt like I’d rather suffer outside on my own on the street. I don’t judge anyone else because obviously I’m in the same situation, but I don’t want to associate myself with too many other people like this. I go to a few places where you can get free food, but I’ve just been keeping myself to myself. I’ve still got that pride and I don’t want to ask for too much help.
After a few weeks living on the streets and still working full time hours I realised I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d never been on the street before, and it can be really hard. If it was really cold I learnt to tell my mind I was warm. It was like psychology, but it definitely impacts on your mental health, especially when it’s raining. I didn’t have a tent. I'm just in a sleeping bag down by the beach where it's quiet, and people can’t see me. There are always toilets I can find to have a wash and keep myself as clean and presentable as possible before I go to work, but then people look at you and think why does he need help if he looks so smart? Surely, he’s got money or he’s just playing the system? It makes you think that you have to look like shit just to get them to believe you. If you don’t persevere they just forget you. I know they’re trying to help people with drugs and mental health problems to get off the streets, but then that means people like me who are clean get forced to go on the street instead, and that puts us at risk of developing the same problems. It’s like you have to get worse before you get better. They fix one problem just to make another one. In the end I got tired of trying to convince them so that’s when I decided to cut my working hours down so that I would qualify for housing benefit from the council and get off the street quicker.
Just today they emailed me to say that now I qualified for help with the bond to get into a shared property, so hopefully this time next week I should be in a place. I’ve also got an interview for universal credit next week, but I don’t want to be on benefits at all. As soon as I get housed I want to go back to full-time work and move on with my life. My mother was always a strong single parent who coped on her own, and I wouldn’t want her to see me like this. When she was being treated for the cancer we hoped it might get better, but then she had a stroke as well, and it just got worse. That’s what finished her off in the end. My father lives in Germany with his wife and their kids now. After my mother passed away we did finally meet up, and I tried to ask all those questions about why he’d left us, but he was just emotionless. There was nothing. Strangely he reached out to me on Facebook a couple of months ago, and I asked him again, but he never replied. A few days later he just blocked me. He just threw it back in my face again.
When I look back I think it was a shit teenage life in some ways, but the way I look at it now, if none of that had happened, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It makes you think more about what you take for granted. If you find yourself at the bottom, then there’s only one way up. You’ve got to keep positive.
I can’t wait to get into my own place. The vast majority of people I see are just normal people in difficult situations, but for some of the people who’ve been doing this for years, just having four walls around them is actually not the only thing they need. I viewed one property recently and it was like a drug-den. Proper rough shit. I knew I’d never be able to stay there. I knew full well I would have walked out and been right back to square one, so I’ve waited a little longer for somewhere I could actually make a home. For people more vulnerable than me they would get isolated and go mental in that situation. I know you can’t just give everyone everything if they’re not going to help themselves, but some people just need some support and guidance as well as a house, and that help is not always there. That’s when they end up back on the street and people begin to give up on them completely. They don’t realise the street is actually where they actually feel safer.”
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